A continuation of my previous post on the first ever London Honey Show. I’m going to kick this one off with a few photos:
That pretty white hive is a WBC, named after its British inventor, William Broughton Carr. Not the most practical of beehives, but very recognisably a beehive and much nicer to look at than the plain wooden boxes my bees live in. Next to the WBC is a yellow & grey Omlet Beehaus, the plastic hives loved by fashion conscious urban beekeepers.
And a couple of the tall Warre hive, a vertical version of a top-bar hive. From the little I’ve heard about them, Warre hives are favoured by beekeepers who like to take a hands-off, minimal inspections approach.
Chris Beale – Chairman of the Pinner & Ruislip Beekeepers
“Marketing Honey & Wax Products (the byproducts of the hive)”
Going back to my talk notes, the third and last talk I attended was by Chris, Chairman of the nearby Pinner & Ruislip association. In Chris’s view, honey, wax, propolis etc are mere byproducts of the main hive product, which is pollination of London’s flowers. His talk gave us some ideas on how to use these gorgeous byproducts produced by the bees. Right now, Chris has 800 pounds of honey sitting in his kitchen, so using it up is on his mind!
Quite valuable. Can be distilled in alcohol for a sore throat cure – but watch out, this liquid will burn! It’s a sticky, red-brown substance which bees collect from trees like conifers which secrete resin. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties, which is why the bees use it to cover any large objects in the hive too large for them to carry out, such as mice which have intruded into the hive and died.
Can be jarred up and sold for a good price – £4-5 a jar – to people who put it on their breakfast cereal as a cure for hayfever. See the Pinner & Ruislip Association’s page ‘Honey and Hay-fever’ for an explanation of why local honey and pollen might help your hayfever – their website is beautifully designed and well worth looking at for their innovative use of grass imagery!
Honey and water with added yeast, yeast nutrient, tannin and citric acid. 900g/2lb/5 cups of honey produces about 3 litres (5 1/2 pints) of mead. Retails at £8 a bottle but you need a licence to sell it in the UK – don’t be tempted to sell without one!
Wax from your honey cappings makes great lipbalm, but be careful to label all the ingredients in case anyone’s allergic to one of them.
Here’s a lip balm recipe from Collins Beekeeper’s Bible:
Makes 5-6 x 15ml pots
10g cocoa butter
10g olive oil
40g sweet almond oil
2 tsp honey (any variety chosen for taste, but try borage or honey blossom)
1. Melt the wax in a bain-marie over a gentle heat.
2. In a separate pan, gently heat the lanolin and cocoa butter, stirring until the mixture is fully liquid.
3. Add the olive and sweet almond oils, stirring over a low heat until fully combined, then stir in the melted beeswax.
4. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool until just beginning to set, then add the honey, stirring thoroughly until fully incorporated.
5. Scoop into pots and leave to set at room temperature.
Wax plus turpentine and essence of lavender (to make it smell nice) makes a lovely polish. But watch out – the turpentine makes the mixture extremely flammable and Chris told us about a local beekeeper who went to answer the phone and came back to find his kitchen on fire. It melts at 62F. The National Trust polish furniture once a year using beeswax polish.
Here’s a recipe from Keeping Bees and Making Honey by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum (2008):
Beeswax wood finish (for bare wood)
You will need: 55g (2oz) beeswax, 300ml (1/2pt) turpentine, bain marie.
1. Melt the wax in the bain marie.
2. Remove from the heat source and pour in the turpentine.
3. Return to the heat and give a gentle stir.
4. Cool, and spoon into sealable containers.
5. Warm slightly before applying to bare wood. Apply with a soft cloth, allow to dry, then buff with a wool cloth. Can also be used on leather.
Thornes make silicone candle moulds, including a Christmas tree candle which can be coloured green to disguise any dirty wax. Beeswax should be melted in a double boiler bain-marie, without coming into direct contact with the water or the heat. The temperature of the wax can be checked with a sugar thermometer. The melting point range for beeswax is 62-64 °C (144-147 °F).
You can sell this either in crystallised or liquid form, but don’t sell jars with a mix of the two. If you’re going to sell your honey, it’s worth buying a refractometer to check the water content is low enough to meet legal specifications for honey. If the honey contains too much water, it can ferment and cause the jar to explode. Honey jars must also be clean and full to the top with honey – otherwise people can complain to Trading Standards!
Don’t be tempted to cut in shop-bought honey with your own to make a bit more of a profit. You can easily be caught! Chris told us the story of a British beekeeper who mixed up different types of honey. He was found out because pollen grains from different plants can be identified under a microscope – and British honey does not contain eucalyptus pollen.
Chris’s tip was that nostalgia sells honey. He once had shiny black and gold labels made up which he considered very smart and stylish. Yet when the public saw those labels next to some others he had with a colourful picture of a country cottage, the cottage won every time. And buy tamper proof labels that stick down over the lid. Sell your honey for about £4.50-5.00 minimum a jar – more than supermarket honey, but you have a premium product with real taste and flavour on your hands.
An example of a ‘country cottage’ style honey label, sold for £5.30 for a 100 on the Paynes Bee Farm website.
I recommend Keeping Bees and Making Honey by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum (2008) for lots of info on using your bee products, including extracting/showing honey, making candles and cosmetics/cooking recipes. Or, if you have a bigger budget, the Collins Beekeeper’s Bible, a much heftier tome which you won’t be taking to read on the bus. It contains a whole chapter on ‘Honey and other Bee Products’, including beeswax, candles, propolis, pollen, bee venom and royal jelly, with plenty of recipes.